Making progress: Whittell baseball aims for improvement in 2015 season
2015 Warriors Regular Season Schedule
*March 10 vs. Pyramid Lake W 24-2
March 13-14 Yerington Tournament (at Smith Valley)
March 17 vs. Mammoth 3 p.m. (DH)
*March 21 vs. Wells, 11 a.m. (DH)
*March 24 vs. Smith Valley, 4 p.m.
*March 28 vs. Eureka, 11 a.m. (DH)
March 31 vs. Sierra Lutheran, 4 p.m.
*April 1 vs. Coleville 2 p.m. (DH)
April 10-11 Greenville Tournament
*April 18 at Carlin, TBD
*April 21 vs. Pyramid Lake, 3 p.m.
*April 25 at Mineral County, 11 a.m. (DH)
*April 28 at Smith Valley, 3 p.m.
*May 2 at Virginia City, 11 a.m. (DH)
May 5 vs. Sierra Lutheran, 4 p.m.
Home games in bold (played at Lampe Park in Gardnerville)
No matter the results it produces during the 2015 season, the Whittell baseball team expects to be competitive in all its games. That objective would signify positive progress for a program coming off a challenging campaign a year ago.
“We want to be better than last year and we want to be competitive — we’ll lose some games, but we want to be in every one,” Warriors second-year head coach Devin Ruby said. “We’re a young team, and as long as they keep working we’re going to be alright.”
In Ruby’s first season as coach, Whittell nearly didn’t have enough players to field a team. The Warriors won two league games and were on the wrong end of a handful of lopsided defeats.
“I had to go out and get three skiers and a couple athletes that had never even walked on a field to make sure we had a team,” Ruby said. “My expectations last year were to teach the kids everything I could and make them like it.
“It was a rough year last year — but we knew it going in.”
Six players are back from the Warriors’ 2014 team — including two-way standouts Jake Sharp and Colton Ruby. Each of Whittell’s six returners improved from last year, and that combined with increased depth from the addition of four freshmen has the Warriors optimistic as this season begins.
“We’re way ahead of schedule compared to last year — it’s just a different atmosphere,” Ruby said.
The Warriors opened the season with a 24-2 five-inning victory over Pyramid Lake on Tuesday, making a statement to start the season. Last year, Whittell didn’t score more than seven runs in a single game.
“It was a huge step forward,” Ruby said.
Sharp and Ruby occupy two of the top three spots in the Warriors’ lineup along with junior Chris Evans. Whittell’s first two hitters — Sharp and Evans — are key to set the table for No. 3 hitter Ruby and cleanup hitter Peyton Galli.
“Jake is really aggressive — he’s going to get on base and steal bases,” Ruby said. “If Chris can keep making contact and get him around, Colton and Peyton will knock in a lot of runs.”
Galli is one of two freshmen expected to make an immediate impact for the Warriors, and it didn’t take long for him to make a strong first impression. In Whittell’s season-opening win against Pyramid Lake on Tuesday, he went 4-for-5 with a double, two triples and five RBIs.
“Peyton is a long ball threat every time he gets up — he crushes the ball,” Ruby said.
Hitting behind Galli is sophomore Sam Berry, one of the team’s most improved players. The Warriors’ center fielder has emerged as a solid bat a season after struggling to hit the ball.
“He hit all year and bought into working out in the summer,” Ruby said. “He worked really hard and he’s a totally different player — he loves playing and knowing he’s in the lineup every day.”
Nic Buchholz also brings a solid bat to the bottom of Whittell’s lineup, and is the other freshman expected to provide a quick contribution to the team. The Warriors’ 2015 team has at least six reliable hitters — two more than last season.
“We have a lot more pop in our lineup, and the kids that were good last year are really strong this year,” Ruby said.
Juniors Quinn Kixmiller and Armando Rodriguez are Whittell’s other two returning players. Senior Osvaldo Reyes-Lucero, sophomore Kai Mangiaracina along with freshmen Andrew Carlisle and Troy Libert are making their debuts on the diamond for the Warriors.
“The kids that loved it came back and the new kids that came on board are baseball players,” Ruby said. “We have really good team chemistry this year — they all like each other, they all like coming to practice and they’re working hard.”
Whittell also has pitching depth this season, something it lacked in 2014. Ruby, Galli, Sharp and Buchholz will pitch a majority of the Warriors’ innings this season, with Evans and Kixmiller expected to filled relief roles.
Whittell returned to action Friday at the Yerington Tournament, where it will play four games in two days. The Warriors host Mammoth (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.) in a home doubleheader at Lampe Park next Tuesday before resuming league play with a home twinbill against defending Div. IV Northern League champion Wells.
“We have to make sure we sweep the bottom teams in league and be competitive with the top teams — hopefully we can knock one of them out of it,” Ruby said. “It would be a huge bonus if we could make the playoffs.”
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